Fake Food News is Nothing New

January 12, 2017

Guidelines for retail dietitians in helping shoppers navigate inaccurate claims and false information.

These days you can hardly avoid the stories about “fake news” on TV, on line or in print; and while many in the country are aghast at this revelation, fake food news has been around for decades.

How often has a shopper asked you about some product that they heard was a miracle cure on Dr. Oz, Mike Adams, Food Babe or the countless other websites and ‘experts’ that are selling their latest program or product? 

Most frustrating is that when you explain the truth and give them the correct information too often they question it or don’t believe it. After all, if it’s on TV or a website with millions of followers, how can it be wrong? Almost weekly, I feel the frustration as well as I try to answer the questions about growth hormones in poultry – where people just don’t want to believe it is regulated and illegal.

Social media has been a terrific tool for retail dietitians to get your health and wellness messages to shoppers and to promote your programs – but as we have seen in our recent Presidential election, social media needs better checks and balances. Facebook is trying to vet out fake news as will all others, but in the meantime its critical to the health and wellness of your shoppers for RDBA members to take the lead and be vigilant.

 I recommend that we all follow guidelines to thwart “fake food news”:

  1. Verify the validity of every claim and piece of food news before we share in-store, in social media, and everywhere. Be sure to source and link to the original findings and verify that the source is respected and credible.
  2. Find “fake food news” and set the record straight. Whether it's a piece about your store, a particular product or the latest health miracle – be proactive and set the record straight. Create an internal policy to discuss these fake stories and build consensus on how to refute the claim and disseminate the correct information throughout your department and to your consumer affairs department.
  3. Stand your ground. Refuse to work with any product or vendor who is spreading fake food news or claims on their package. Your reputation as a retail dietitian and your stores’ reputation is too valuable to be challenged.  

Scaring shoppers into believing certain diets or products are a magic bullet is not the solution. Accurate and well-communicated information delivered by educated and trained RDs is!